Does Future Mobility Include LSVs?

GEM has been the market leader in LSVs for many years.

The falling cost of batteries and rise of autonomous driving technology has launched a new stage in the development of mobility technologies. These advances may be bad news for LSVs. For decades small-task oriented vehicles, and in particular by golf cars, have dominated the EV market in terms of production volume. Long before Tesla, golf car manufacturers produced hundreds of thousands of electric golf cars annually. Primarily for these vehicles were for golf courses, but for personal transportation as well. In addition, the large volume of used electric golf cars coming off of golf courses each year were finding their way into the personal transportation and utility markets. In smaller volumes they produced electric powered burden carriers and general utility vehicles for use in enclosed spaces such as factories and warehouses.

Speed and pricing hurt LSV adoption

Federal regulations in the late nineties lead to the development of Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs), originally referred to as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs). The LSV classification created the opportunity to move small EVs out of gated and golf communities and relatively confined driving environments and onto public roads in large numbers. Unfortunately, for LSV manufacturers, the widespread adoption of LSVs for personal transportation has never occurred. In theory, LSVs would be a good choice as a second vehicle. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and suitable for the short trips typical of many drivers. In practice, they are relatively expensive for their limited functionality, and to many they look like a glorified golf car.

With a 25 mph top speed, LSVs are too slow for real life driving where speeds are often 30-45 mph. Federal authorities, already concerned about LSV safety, are unwilling to compromise on safety requirements for higher speed Medium Speed Vehicles. The additional safety requirements for MSVs would make these vehicles relatively expensive compared to fully highway capable vehicles.

Pricing has always been an issue with LSVs, which typically cost around $10,000 on the low end. They find themselves competing against new, used and refurbished golf cars that can cost thousands of dollars less or comparably priced, but heavily customized golf cars. On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest priced highway capable vehicles available do not cost that much more and offer far greater functionality. As a result, the LSV market has never “taken off”. SVR’s research has shown that LSVs for personal use have only gained traction where local laws restrict the use of golf cars on public roads. The trend has been for local governments to allow more golf cars, modified golf cars and even UTVs on local roads.

Where LSV have found some success is on college and corporate campuses. In these environments the LSV safety features are worth the additional expense in the context of insurance and liability. The slower speed is another plus where administrators do not want employees speeding across pedestrian filled campus grounds. The utility LSV has proven to provide plenty of functionality and mobility in these confined environments at a reduced cost compared to pick-up trucks which they often replace. In addition, electric LSVs fit well into sustainability and green initiatives on these campuses.

Electric bikes and scooters offer an alternative

New battery and autonomous driving technologies are unlikely to change the fate of LSVs, and likely will make it worse. Batteries are becoming small enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to create new competitors to LSVs. Namely, a rash of electric bicycles and electric scooters have been entering the market. While costing thousands of dollars, electric bicycles have the potential to chip away at some of the LSV market. Have a short commute on local roads and don’t need to carry much with you. Why not use an electric bike? Need a quick way around urban areas and don’t want to worry about parking? How about an electric scooter.

There are electric bike and scooter sharing programs either already operating or in pilot programs in major cities. These options aren’t ideal in bad weather or for multiple passengers, but they can potentially reduce LSV usage. In fact, they may even provide competition to golf cars and Personal Transportation Vehicles (PTVs) within gated communities.

Autonomous vehicles take a new direction

May Mobility self-driving GEM

GEM configured by May Mobility for self-driving.

Similarly autonomous driving technology may very well reduce the potential footprint for LSVs. Google has used some LSVs for the testing of their autonomous driving technology.  You could argue from a standpoint of safety that the more controlled environment of gated communities could be a good entry point for the technology. But it appears the major players are starting with highway capable vehicles. There have been some instances of LSVs with the technology being tested for limited use scenarios such as shuttle runs. Currently, the relative expense of the autonomous driving technology compared to the cost of an LSV is likely too high. The economics favor installation on premium vehicles or rental/sharing fleets with the flexibility for high volume usage.

Nuro autonomous vehicle

This Fall Kroger will be using passengerless autonomous vehicles from startup Nuro to deliver groceries to customers.

Starship Technologies Delivery Robot

Starship Technologies is rolling out a robotic delivery service on college and corporate campuses this year.

Even in the commercial use of LSVs or their slightly faster cousins in Europe for tasks like urban delivery, autonomous driving technology may undercut the application of these vehicles. There are a number of startups developing autonomous delivery vehicles for operation on streets. However, they are passenger less or even smaller and slower for use on sidewalks. The last vestige for the LSV may remain the college or corporate campus, but even the autonomous shuttle could cut into some of that usage. We may be witnessing the highpoint for the use of LSVs right now.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

 

 

Road Use Regulation Roundup: June 2018

golf cart signThe following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since January, 2018.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • This roundup saw more legislation related to allowing LSVs on roads as opposed to golf cars and ATVs/UTVs but it is too early to tell if this represents a long term trend and reversal of previous legislative trends favoring golf cars and UTVs.
  • Of special note is legislation in California that is focusing on the development of a regional multi-city plan for LSV transportation. I believe this is the first time a regional approach has been covered in the roundup.
  • Most of the legislative activity occurred in the Midwest and Southeast.

Highland Village, TX – The City Council approved an ordinance allowing the use of NEVs, LSVs and golf cars in the city with certain restrictions.

Myrtle Beach, SC – The City Council passed an ordinance requiring businesses that rent golf cars to get $10 tags on each vehicle.

Glendale, MO – City officials passed an ordinance allowing golf cars to be used on city streets provided they have certain safety features.

Bay St. Louis & Waveland, MS – The state passed legislation that allows the use of LSVs on certain city streets.

Oxford, MS – The owner of a local LSV taxi service requested that the city lower the minimum driving age of such vehicles from 21 years old to address a driver shortage. They lowered it to 20 years old.

Audubon, IA – City Supervisors will likely pass an ordinance allowing the use of ATVs/UTVs on county roads if they have certain safety features.

Newport, RI – The City Council passed an ordinance allowing the use of electric LSVs on local roads.

SanDiego, CA – State legislation is being considered that would allow the use of LSVs on a county wide basis. The legislation, backed by North County cities, would allow for the implementation of regional LSV transportation plans.

Cincinnati, OH – The City Council passed an ordinance creating a three year pilot program for the use of LSVs in the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods.

Augusta, GA – The City Commission is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) in the central business district. They would initially be used to provide prearranged tours as opposed to taxi service, and could eventually lead to PTV permits for individual owners.

Sanibel Island, FL – The City Council denied the application for the opening of a seven vehicle LSV rental business citing concerns about traffic, safety and the concept being inconsistent with city planning aimed at reducing auto ridership.

Planned Development Communities As Incubators For Future Mobility

Eli Zero NEV

The new Eli Zero NEV from Eli Electric Vehicles is expected to reach market in late 2018 and is positioned as an urban transportation solution and future mobility concept.

My colleague Stephen Metzger recently wrote a piece on how gated communities could serve as an excellent incubator for testing future mobility systems. These systems include on-demand vehicles, self-driving and autonomous driving technology, ride-sharing systems, and new public transport options. Future mobility concepts typically feature electric vehicles being used in urban environments. He argues that the urban environment presents a myriad of obstacles and complexities for future mobility to overcome and solve, but gated communities offer a simpler but still useful testing ground for future mobility concepts.

Some of the advantages for gated communities include:

  • A better planned transportation environment into which mobility concepts can more easily be introduced
  • Population already using or conditioned to small, electric vehicles like golf cars and LSVs
  • Portion of the population that cannot drive themselves and could benefit from greater mobility

The article concludes with some examples of new small, electric vehicles with an eye towards future mobility that are entering or trying to break into the market.

Learn more:  Smallvehicleresource.com

 

Garia Golf Car Inspired By Mercedes Benz Style Premieres

Garia Golf Car Mecedes-Benz Style

The Garia Golf Car inspired by Mercedes-Benz Style is now available in limited edition release.

Garia aluminum rims

14″ black aluminum wheels with diamond-cut elements add style.

outdoor touchpad

The 10″ outdoor touchpad display is paired with bluetooth connectivity.

Under the moniker “The coolest golf car ever”, Garia premiered their Garia Golf Car inspired by Mercedes Benz Style at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. Priced at $73,000, the two-seat Golf Car is the height of luxury and available for a limited edition release.

What makes a $73,000 golf car? You can start with unique styling unlike any other golf car that is a product of Garia’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz. This includes 14″, five spoke, black aluminum rims with diamond cut elements, uniquely designed headlights, carbon fiber accents, as well as Garia and Mercedes-Benz Style logos prominently placed around the vehicle.

The vehicle is handmade including hand-stitched leather “lounge” seats and Mansory carbon fiber parts like the black leather lined roof.The electric powertrain features a 10.24 kWh lithium battery pack good for a 50 mile range and a 70 km/hr top speed that can be limited to 25 mph to meet LSV regulations. For electronics the Golf Car features a 10.1″ outdoor touch screen that displays the scoreboard, bluetooth connection with hands-free streaming, and speakers in the roof and seat interior. Other amenities include a built-in refrigerator, water-proof leather, grab handles, dual size cup-holders and a tray for golf balls and tees. If you are interested, a $1,000 deposit is required to place an order. Learn more: Garia.com

SVR’s Take:  While I’m sure Garia would be happy to sell a bunch of these golf cars that’s not really the point. They are trying to fortify their image as not only a luxury golf car manufacturer but as THE luxury golf car manufacturer. In addition, the design pushes the concept of the golf car away from traditional golf cars and more towards automobiles. With the future of transportation alternatives in flux, this could be helpful in positioning Garia vehicles more towards the personal transportation end of the spectrum as opposed to the golf car end. If niches develop for lower speed urban transportation would you want a vehicle that looks like a golf car or an automobile? From a more current standpoint, elements from the Golf Car will likely find their way into some of Garia’s other lower-priced but still luxurious golf cars.

Marc Cesare, SVR

Massive Yamaha Golf Car & PTV Recall

Yamaha Drive2

The 2018 Yamaha Drive2 is one of the models being recalled over a brake cable issue.

Yamaha Golf Car has issued a recall for over 160,000 golf cars, personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) and utility vehicles due to potential failure of the brake cables and subsequent crash hazard. The recall involves model year 2015 through 2018 gas and electric powered golf cars, PTVs and utility vehicles. Note that the utility vehicles from Yamaha Golf Car are different than those from the power sports manufacturer Yamaha Motors which makes the YXZ, Wolverine and Viking utility vehicles. This recall involves Yamaha Drive and Drive2 branded vehicles made by Yamaha Golf Car. For a detailed list of the model numbers and serial number ranges included check the CPSC.gov website. Owners can also contact Yamaha at 800-962-7926 or at www.yamahagolfcar.com.   Owners should immediately stop using these recalled Golf Cars and PTVs and contact a local Yamaha Golf Car dealer to schedule a free repair. Yamaha is contacting all registered owners directly.

The following recall details are from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Name of product:  Yamaha Golf Cars and Personal Transportation Vehicles (PTVs) Hazard:  The brake cables on the golf cars and PTVs can fail, posing a crash hazard.

Recall date: February 22, 2018
Units:  About 161,000

Description:  This recall involves the following model year 2015 through 2018 gas and electric-powered golf cars , PTVs and utility vehicles. The vehicles were sold in various colors including blue, green, red, white, tan and silver. The model and serial numbers can be found on a label under the seat on the left or right side.

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled Golf Cars and PTVs and contact a local Yamaha Golf Car dealer to schedule a free repair. Yamaha is contacting all registered owners directly.

Incidents/Injuries:  The firm has received 285 reports of brake cables failing. No injuries have been reported.

Sold At:  Yamaha Golf Car dealers nationwide from November 2014 through December 2017 for between $5,900 and $7,700.

Manufacturer(s):  Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, of Newnan, Ga.

Distributor(s):  Yamaha Golf-Car Company, of Kennesaw, Ga.

Manufactured In:  Assembled in United States
Recall number:  18-725

SVR’s Take:  This is a very large recall and on par with the relatively recent large recalls from Polaris. This will likely cost Yamaha millions of dollars to remedy. More importantly, this might put a dent in Yamaha’s progress in gaining market share against Club Car and E-Z-GO. In the last few years, Yamaha has been touting how many thousands of golf courses have switched to their golf cars. The golf car market has always been highly competitive, and even more so in the last several years as golf course growth has declined or remained stagnant.

Marc Cesare, SmallVehicleResource.com

Textron Reports Q4 2017 Earnings

E-Z-GO Freedom RXV

The lithium powered Freedom RXV ELiTE helped drive E-Z-GO sales at Textron.

Textron, manufacturer of Arctic Cat and Textron Off Road utility vehicles, E-Z-GO golf cars and other small, task-oriented vehicles recently reported Q4 2017 financial results. Revenues in the quarter were $4.0 billion, up 5% from the fourth quarter of 2016. Textron segment profit in the quarter was $360 million, down $31 million from the fourth quarter of 2016. For the year revenue increased to $14.2 billion up from $13.8 billion. Textron also produces Bell helicopters, Citation jets and various military systems and products. Textron is forecasting 2018 revenues of approximately $14.6 billion, up 3% percent from the prior year.

The following are some of the highlights of the earnings call and presentation related to small, task-oriented vehicles.

  • Industrial revenues, which includes Arctic Cat, E-Z-GO and other Specialized Vehicles, were $1.1 billion for the quarter, up 20% largely related to the recent Arctic Cat acquisition.
  • Industrial segment profit was up $10 million from the fourth quarter of 2016 due to favorable performance.
  • E-Z-GO sales increased led by the new lithium powered ELiTE golf car which has seen over 21,000 units delivered
  • In December the new Havoc X side-by-side was introduced

Guidance for 2018

  • At industrial, we’re expecting growth in each of our businesses resulting in projected segment revenue of about $4.7 billion and a margin of about 8%.

Learn More:  Seekingalpha.com (Earnings Call Transcript)

Club Car Launches Tempo Fleet Golf Car

Club Car Tempo

The Tempo, Club Car’s newest fleet golf car.

Club Car Tempo 4Fun

The four-person Club Car Tempo 4Fun fills out the new fleet line.

Club Car launched their newest fleet golf cars, the two-person Tempo and four person Tempo 4Fun at last week’s 2018 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. The Tempo comes with an all electric or gas drive train while the Tempo 4Fun is only available as an electric.

Tempo’s electric drive train features a 3.3 hp motor, 48V power system and a single-point watering system. The Tempo 4Fun has the same system except for a 3.7 hp motor. Both features battery packs with six 8-volt batteries. The gas Tempo is powered by a 404cc, 14 hp, single cylinder engine.

Tempo Connect

The touchscreen is part of the Tempo Connect package which includes Visage fleet management and the Shark Experience entertainment bundle.

The distinguishing option for the new fleet golf car is Club Car’s Tempo Connect, an electronics and connectivity package which includes speakers and a touchscreen that can display an electronic scorecard, 3-D flyovers, hole overviews, a rangefinder and a GPS messaging system. Tempo Connect includes both the Visage Fleet Management system and the Shark Experience. The latter is an entertainment system developed by Verizon in partnership with Greg Norman that provides golfers with live sports, music and golf tips. Visage has been on the market a number of years and is a fleet management system.

Common features for all models include:

  • Independent leaf spring with dual hydraulic shocks front suspension
  • Rear wheel mechanical drum brakes
  • Automotive body styling
  • Optional molded-in and painted Premium colors
  • Aluminum frame
  • Alloy wheel
  • Premium seats

Learn more:  Clubcar.com

New SVR Market Study Predicts Solid Growth For STOVs

In a new market study on the small task-oriented vehicle (STOV) market in the US and Canada, Small Vehicle Resource (SVR), LLC predicts growth over the 2017-2021 period. The market research reveals four trends coming together that will result in market gains of mid to high single digits in the forecast period and an industry value in the range of $15.8 billion at retail including parts and accessories.

  • Growing appreciation in a highly diverse market for the effectiveness of STOVs specifically designed to meet individual segment needs;
  • Increasing competition that will drive new product development as manufacturers seek to strengthen current market strongholds and stake out additional market segments with new and/or expanded product lines;
  • Continuing focus on accessories and attachments to enhance the versatility and value of STOVs, boost revenues and supplant other vehicle types such as pick-ups and tractors for work and full-size vehicles for transportation;
  • Golf manufacturers emphasizing non-fleet markets over the continuing slow/negative growth golf car fleet market.

Steve Metzger, SVR Managing Director, states that, “While the fleet market remains in a downsizing mode, it is a marginal decline. It will remain a significant component of the golf car-type vehicle market. On the other hand, SVR forecasts continued sizable gains in the non-fleet market, including light utility and transporter vehicles and personal transportation vehicles.” Metzger also notes, “SVR anticipates that important new opportunities lie ahead, including self-driving technology applications, as well as potential for a much broader market on a global basis.”

Marc Cesare, SVR Managing Director adds, “The off-road utility vehicle market continues to be a competitive vortex for golf car manufacturers seeking new markets, the powersports industry, and traditional manufacturers of work related utility vehicles. While market growth will be slower than the recent high growth years, it remains solid,” Cesare notes, “ and competition will drive product innovation in both base vehicles as well as options and attachments that improve vehicle performance and versatility.

Approximately a third of the market value is from electric powered STOVs, primarily in the form of golf cars or golf car derived utility vehicles and personal transportation vehicles (PTVs). PTVs are golf cars modified for gated community or low speed public road use and include low speed vehicles (LSVs). Key trends and projections for the market include:

  • In total, demand for electric powered STOVs will increase to over 300,000 vehicles in 2021.
  • The demand for non-fleet golf car type vehicles will more than offset the slight decline in the fleet golf car market, moving from under 50% of the total demand to over 50%.
  • Light utility vehicles produced by golf car and other manufacturers are expected to grow approximately 10% annually to 2021.
  • PTVs will continue to grow low single digits during the trend period and electric powered PTVs will slowly increase to represent nearly 75% of the market by 2021. LSVs will account for about one-fifth of the PTVmarket.

Metzger, states that, “The potential for even greater electric powered STOV growth is there. In the PTV market the combination of market forces and emerging technologies could greatly increase the applicability of PTVs. Increasing urbanization is expected to create congestion and pollution issues, and the search for new transportation solutions. The advent of self-driving vehicle technology along with improved battery technology creates the potential for mobility platforms that can in part be based on small PTVs.” He further notes, “Gated communities with their more controlled environments could prove to be excellent testing grounds and the concepts could then migrate to urban environments that are well suited to low speed vehicle operations.”

The new study, the eighth in the series of studies produced by SVR since 2000, covers utility, off-road, and personal transportation vehicles, and fleet golf cars.

The study is entitled, 2017 Market Report on the Small, Task-Oriented Vehicle Industry: Transition and Growth –Trends from 2012; Forecasts to 2021. 

For additional, detailed information on study content a brochure is available with a table of contents ( Small Task-Oriented Vehicle Study – Analysis & Forecast (PDF)) or contact:

Steve Metzger,  smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com

(914) 293-7577

UPS to Use Golf Cars for Residential Deliveries in Kentucky

UPS golf cara

A UPS delivery golf car in use in another state.

The United Parcel Service is planning on using golf cars to deliver packages in residential areas in Kentucky. The state government recently passed a law that will allow the use of golf cars or low speed vehicles for commercial delivery in residential areas.

The plan is to use the vehicles during the peak November to January delivery season, with Louisville as a potential location. The golf car or LSV would be stored in the neighborhood in a portable storage unit, and packages would be delivered to the unit as well. A driver would then deliver packages to the local neighborhood. The vehicles would be modified to carry packages and bear a UPS logo.

Teamsters Local 89 is against the plan because the drivers would be paid less than the traditional truck drivers. UPS confirmed that seasonal workers, who are paid less, will be used. According to the company, they already use golf cars for deliveries in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Learn more:  Bizjournals.com ;  Vehicle in use (youtube)

Comment:  A good example of how LSVs, golf cars and UTVs can be used in niche applications to improve efficiency and lower costs. Why use a full-size delivery truck when a much smaller and possibly electric powered vehicle can be used? I suspect this vehicle application is most efficient during the peak season when package volume is high in certain neighborhoods.

Marc Cesare, Smallehicleresource.com

Self-Driving Vehicles = Growth For STOVs?

Google Prototype self-driving low-speed vehicle.

My colleague recently penned an article exploring the nexus of self-driving cars and golf car-type vehicles. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Hardware costs are dropping precipitously and may soon be within striking distance of being affordable for golf car type vehicles.
  • Golf car manufacturers are already exploring the technology and in some cases conducting testing.
  • Other companies are using GEM vehicles as self-driving test vehicles.
  • Gated communities with low speed vehicles provide a lower complexity environment that is more conducive to self-driving solutions.
  • Self-driving technology could expand potential growth avenues in non-golf car markets, an area of focus for golf car manufacturers

The article points to gated communities and urban fleets as potential market segments for deployment of self-driving technology. There are also other potential market impacts not addressed in the article that this technology can have.

For one, self-driving technology could provide an impetus for LSVs sales in the personal transportation sector. Purpose made LSVs have not quite reached their potential in this segment due to the relative cost of LSVs compared to the available market alternatives such as used golf cars, golf cars modified to be LSV compliant, customized golf cars and new golf cars. Put simply, not enough customers have found the additional price of LSVs to be worth the additional benefits. LSVs for personal transportation have done best where local regulations have favored them such as where golf cars or modified golf cars are not allowed on public roads but LSVs are, or where night time driving or other driving restrictions require LSV compliant technology.

Self-driving technology could be a differentiator for personal transportation LSVs. Since they are higher priced, LSVs are likely to feature self-driving technology before traditional golf cars. While it is possible existing golf cars could be retrofitted with self-driving technology, it may prove cost prohibitive and, more importantly, likely to encounter regulatory issues. It’s one thing to slap on some lights and an auto-style windshield, it’s quite another to install the software and hardware components necessary to create a self-driving vehicle, not to mention supporting the system with updates moving forward.

Regulatory issues brings to mind another consideration in regard to self-driving technology, medium speed vehicles (MSVs). While a few states in the US allow medium speed vehicles, at the Federal level NHTSA has never created a MSV classification and, in fact, has strongly opposed the idea on safety grounds. A MSV would require prohibitively expensive safety features akin to a highway capable vehicle.

Can self-driving change this dynamic? It is a possibility worth considering. In January, 2017 NHTSA completed their investigation (PDF file) of Tesla’s Autopilot and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system, which was initiated following a fatal crash of a Tesla with a tractor trailer in Florida. Their conclusion was that, “A safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time and further examination of this issue does not appear to be warranted.” However, for the purposes of this discussion, the most important finding of the report was related to Tesla vehicles before and after they had Tesla’s Autopilot Technology Package (ATP) installed at purchase or through updates. “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.”

This is an astonishing drop, and even more so considering it does not take into account whether Autopilot was in use. Therefore, this improvement is likely a conservative finding. The question is straightforward. Can MSVs use self-driving technology to make them safe enough to pass NHTSA’s regulatory rigor? Why rely on a package of older and likely more expensive safety technology to improve MSV safety when a potentially cheaper and possibly more effective solution is on the horizon. It may soon be time to revisit the possibility of creating an MSV classification, which could open up a range of potential growth markets.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com